Fear of The Maddening Crowds: a classic, re-imagined for our situation.

A continuation of my glimpse into modern-day Wessex.

Chapter 2 Where is that Maddening Crowd? by Thomas Hiding

It was Frannie, who had been barmaid at The Malthouse through the reign of three previous landlords, who figured out the practicalities of re-opening as a take-away. William stood back and watched her carry a table into the doorway, set out the blackboard on the deserted pavement and write in huge letters, Beer, bring your own container.

‘If it doesn’t work, you needn’t pay me,’ she’d said, as if she’d no idea that William had already decided that she wouldn’t fit with his plans for the refurbishment. She’d seen what his Sheffield pub was like when she Googled him, and had gone out to shop for a plain white shirt in the New Year sales. That was three weeks before he arrived for the takeover.

She’d tried it out in the privacy of her bedroom, in the flat above the saloon bar, with the grumble of tv news reports seeping up through the floor boards.

‘Hey, I can rock this,’ she’d thought, as she zipped up the black skirt from the back of the wardrobe. It had to be four or five years since she’d bought it, and she’d worn it only once, for a Halloween fancy dress night. But it was okay, it still fitted.

It was okay, wasn’t it? She’d turned, and turned, before her mirror, knowing that this was a low wattage-bulb illusion. She opened the door to let the light in from the hall, then fetched a lamp, plugged it in by the mirror and took the shade off it.

The stranger in the mirror remained even when she hunted through her makeup box for colours she’d never worn, stuff that should have been thrown away years before. She’d worry about consequences tomorrow. Who knew if it was even true, about the bacteria and infections? She patted and shaded, blended and outlined, then rubbed it off and started again, and again.

Who was she kidding?

The shirt was stained. She’d washed it before taking it, and the skirt, to the charity shop, but there were still smudges of foundation on the collar. Frannie had felt like a reverse shop-lifter as she handed the bagged clothes over.

23 thoughts on “Fear of The Maddening Crowds: a classic, re-imagined for our situation.

  1. As before, I bloody love it! My eyes were racing ahead, hungrily eating up Frannie’s (Fanny’s?) every thought and word in this, your wonderful new re-imaging of one of my favourite stories! I think this is a terrific idea! Lastly, is it weird to say that I’m looking forward to reading more about the pandemic entering into novels and novellas?! Blessings always, Deborah.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Deborah.
      If it’s weird, I share your weirdness. I’ve assumed that’s because I’ve always been drawn to dystopia stories.
      Thanks for your blessings. Blessings to you, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this Cath, particularly the line ‘She’d tried it out in the privacy of her bedroom, in the flat above the saloon bar, with the grumble of tv news reports seeping up through the floor boards.’ That’s evocative. We watched the newest version of David Copperfield, starring the wonderful Dev Patel, the other night. For some reason, that bit felt Dickensian. I see this is Chapter 2 though so I am now off to find Chapter 1. Some light in the Covid gloom, thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I like this very evocative scene! Now of course, being me, at the part where “the stranger in the mirror remained”, my first thought was that Frannie’s reflection was still in standing there in the mirror giving baleful looks to the non-reflected world after Frannie went to hunt through the makeup box. But that probably mostly tells you about the sorts of places my mind goes …

    Like

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